A community-focused produce delivery initiative that helps pay local farmers has expanded to the Sunshine Coast.
Food Connect is a social enterprise giving foodies access to a huge range of organic or regenerative produce grown within 500 kilometres of their door through an online store.
By keeping food miles to a minimum, Food Connect maintains low costs for customers while paying farmers a larger proportion of the profit.
The “farm to fork” approach means fruit and vegetables are delivered within a couple of days, keeping produce fresher and healthier.
Food Connect originated in Brisbane in 2004 after founder Robert Pekin lost his family farm.
Originally a dairy farmer in Victoria, Mr Pekin’s farm fell under after years of pressure from the deregulation of the dairy industry, plummeting milk prices and tough weather.
“I was one of many who fell victim to rising pressures and falling prices in the ’90s and early 2000s and lost the family farm,” he says.
“I was also feeling disconnected and disillusioned. Food is so deeply rooted in community, but once my milk left the gate I didn’t know where it went or who was drinking it.
“I knew there had to be a better way. I spent a couple of years soul-searching and looking into different models from around the world, and came across community-supported agriculture, which Food Connect has its roots in.”
While produce delivery services are becoming more popular, especially as a result of the COVID pandemic, Mr Pekin says Food Connect is a pioneer in this space doing things a “little differently”.
“One of the most powerful things about Food Connect is the appreciation our farmers feel,” he says.
“Not only are they being paid a fair price for their product, but they know who’s eating their food – and often hearing from them. It’s not unusual for us to pass on thank you notes from customers.
“One farmer still glows whenever he talks about the time that a family loved his apples so much, we gave them his number to call and say thank you.”
Food Connect also offer initiatives like neighbourhood pick-up hubs, reusing delivery boxes and customer farm tours.
Sunshine Coast deliveries began in February this year, with orders arriving every Thursday, and many locals are now regular customers.
Some local producers include Clarks at Woombye, Pim’s Organics in the Glass House Mountains, Maleny Cheese and Kin Kin Naturals, as well several seasonal producers. Sunshine Coast suburbs in the delivery area are: 4506, 4512, 4519, 4554, 4510,4516, 4550, 4555, 4556, 4551, 4517, 4511, 4507, 4518, 4553, 4552, 4518, 4564, 4559, 4558 and 4557.